Sunday, November 27, 2016

What If It's Not The Stress After All?

Repost from March, 2014

A lively debate has begun in the stress management community over Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk in which she presents research that indicates it’s not stress that is damaging, but instead one’s attitude toward stress that dictates the damage done to one’s health by stressful situations.  To put it bluntly, stress doesn’t kill people, thinking that stress is bad kills people.  Volition over physiology.

Can we all be so wrong?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Just Breathe

Mindfulness is either on the cusp of something great, or risks becoming the latest self-help fad to perish from oversimplification.  It has, without a doubt, improved my functioning with bipolar disorder.  In working with others, I have seen similar results.  And while research specific to meditation and bipolar disorder is scarce, the effect of mindfulness on other mental illnesses is well documented, and positive.

But it’s not so easy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Too Stressed to Meditate

For the past couple of years, meditation has been easy.  I’d put in some hard work over the previous decade and had found a place of stillness each time I took to the cushion.  Sure, sometimes what I met as I observed my mind was difficult, but my practice had become productive and indispensible.  I spent the last two years as a stay at home Dad of a toddler.  I did all of the Dad, and much of the Mom, stuff.  I managed the house, cleaned (badly), cooked (very well), arranged activities and play dates, and did what I could to keep the family satisfied.  None of this was easy, but my daughter napped every day.  And while she napped I had a solid thirty-five minutes to meditate, without fail.  I taught a couple of classes each week, and led a Wednesday night drop-in meditation group, but that was more rewarding and fulfilling than taxing.

Then, all of it came to an end.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Maybe It's the Discipline

Mindfulness works as a therapy to increase impulse control.  While the results of practice are well-researched, the neurological mechanisms are indeterminate.   Something about mindfulness practice actually changes the cortical make-up of the brain.  Why this happens is not yet known.  It could be the focused attention or the release of judgmental thoughts.  Or, it could be the discipline.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Contempt and Attachment

My wife and I are older parents.  We like to think we have much wisdom to pass on, but we have to be mindful of some very negative things we can pass on as well.  Age brings healthy skepticism, and raising a daughter who reasonably questions authority will not be a bad thing.  However, cyniscm often accompanies skepticism, and the last thing we want is a cynical child.  Childhood should be about wonder and possibility.  Cynicism can quickly kill that.  So we have to keep the negativity in check.

A far more dangerous pattern also often emerges with age.  Wrongs, suspicion, anger, and mistakes often brew contempt.  And there is nothing less childlike than a contemptuous adult.  Couples too easily become contemptuous of each other.  People actually hold those with opposite views on social issues as enemies.  Sometimes even the smallest infraction is left to simmer to years later boil over as hate.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Judgement and Low Expectation

Certainly, the people closest to you want what’s best for you.  They want you to be safe, secure, and, if possible, happy.  Sometimes they want these things for us even more than we want them for ourselves.  This is loving, caring, and compassionate.  And it can be a burden that holds us back from our true potential.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reactivity and Its Impact

I recently presented to a large group of Direct Support Professionals, people who support individuals with behavioral challenges.  I have conducted similar workshops for family members of those with serious mental illness.  We talk about stress management, self-protection, and the limits of compassion.  We meditate together.  But the topic that always garners the most interest is how the supporters’ own reactivity, or fight or flight response, can precipitate negative behaviors in the individuals they support.